KIDS ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY NEWS
Inflatable Bouncer-Related Injuries Sharply Increase in the U.S. -- Forbes , 11/26/2012
Inflatable bouncers or “moonwalks” have become popular amusements in both the public and private setting in the past decade. A number of these “bounce houses” or moonwalks are available for rental, or purchased and brought home to the backyard for birthday parties and other such gatherings. Along with their skyrocketing popularity, the number of children presenting to emergency departments in the U.S with injuries from these amusements has also been increasing at an alarming rate: a 15 fold increase in reported injuries from 1995-2010, according to a study published today in the Journal, Pediatrics.
Although they have generally been viewed as safe by the public, the study provides compelling data that should make all parents take note about the risks associated with these colorful air-filled devices. Injuries included strains, sprains and fractures as well as head and neck injuries. Lower extremity fractures were more common than upper extremity fractures as children aged, in agreement with a previous small study from 2008 from Children’s Hospital LA that examined fracture patterns in 49 children ages 1.5-15 years treated from 2002-2007.
The injuries generally occurred from falls in and getting out of the bouncers, as well as the result of collisions with other children inside the bounce house. A number of injuries also occurred as a result of planned stunts– including flips, sliding head down or diving head first. The injuries often happened when older children were playing with younger children- with significant differences in height and weight likely contributing to the severity of the falls and subsequent injuries.
Most concerning is the fact that the number and rate of injuries nearly doubled from 2008-2010, based on data from the study. In 2010, 31 children per day were treated in US emergency departments for bouncer related injuries—about 1 child every 46 seconds. The possible reasons for increase in injuries may relate to an absolute increase in the number of inflatable bouncers, possible changes in design, as well as increased reporting of injuries. Of course this data only reflects patients treated in emergency departments. Many may have been treated in physician offices or urgent care centers.
Of note, more than one third of the injured children in this study were less than 6 years of age-the age group for which the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends against trampoline usage. In many ways, the rapid growth in bouncer related injuries and their similarities with trampoline injuries should increase the demand for safer guidelines for the usage in inflatable bouncers.
In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a statement recommending against any home or recreational use of trampolines, suggesting that trampolines only be used as part of a structured training program with strict safety measures. The similarity in injury patterns, and increasing rates of injuries, suggest that the AAP should perhaps consider making a similar statement regarding pediatric usage of inflatable bouncers. At this point in time, public health officials as well as medical societies have yet to issue any safety recommendations regarding pediatric use of inflatable bouncers- perhaps the time has now arrived.
Bounce houses: Child's play or safety hazard?
The sound will bring kids running faster than the ice cream truck. Blow up an inflatable castle and they can unleash their boundless energy. These days kids can jump at home, with inflatables for sale at many stores. They're so popular you'll also find them everywhere from baseball games to strip malls.
But with all that bouncing, you're bound to have some accidents. Howard County’s Brianna Linton knows it can happen. The 12-year-old broke her wrist in an inflatable jumper accident four years ago. She says, “I just remember being in a hospital and having to take a shot.”
The 12-year-old is now back to taking shots on the court after undergoing surgery at Union Memorial to repair her fracture. Her father, Robert Linton, works as an emergency room physician at the hospital. And he knew Brianna was hurt with just one sound, her scream. He says, “I could tell by the way she screamed. I've never heard that before."
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Linton says he’s grown familiar with bounce house injuries from his time in the ER at Union Memorial. Over the years he says he’s treated a few concussions and broken bones kids have gotten in inflatable jumpers. But he had no idea so many were getting hurt, saying, "Overall I assumed because these things are available out to the public that they were overall pretty safe."
But a study released late last year in the journal Pediatrics shows that's not the case. Tracy Mehan, who was part of the research team that put together the study says, "We suspected the number of injuries had been increasing but we had no idea it was this dramatic."
Mehan, who works for the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio says the inflatable injury numbers reflect an epidemic. Her team looked at kids treated in emergency rooms for inflatable castle injuries. Between 1995 and 2010, the numbers spiked 1500% with more than 60,000 kids sent to the ER nationwide, many of them with broken bones and injuries to the head and neck.
In 2010 alone, the numbers reflect as many as 30 kids a day being taken to the emergency room, according to Mehan, who says, "No one really knew the magnitude of the problem. Now that we know the alarming increase that is happening, it's time to take action."
The Center for Injury Research and Policy is calling on the Consumer Product Safety Commission to create nationwide guidelines and recommendations for inflatable castles and other inflatables. Right now, there aren't any national guidelines.
Instead, the CPSC points to industry standards set by international group ASTM , which sets thousands of accepted standards for products ranging from crayons to lifeboats. Jim Seay, President of Baltimore-based Premier Rides , chairs the ASTM committee that oversees standards created for the inflatable industry. He says, “I think the bounce house industry has a lot of people who are extremely passionate about safety."
ASTM Committee F-24 has developed standards for how inflatables should be made and used with the help of industry reps, consumers and manufacturers. The committee meets at least twice a year to adapt standards as trends change, but their standards are a baseline, not a requirement, for the states that choose to use them. Rob Gavel, Supervisor for Amusement Ride Safety with Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation says, "Many states have no regulation at all. They do not consider a moon bounce an amusement attraction."
But Maryland does see inflatables as an attraction. Inflatable moonwalk that are open to the public, in a county fair or strip mall for example, are regulated and inspected by DLLR on an annual basis. Gavel says 213 registered businesses with more than 3,200 inflatables are on their radar for yearly inspections and spot checks. An inflatable jumper that’s regulated has to display its certification for you to view.
Owners get those certificates after inspections done by a team of eight DLLR inspectors. They make sure rules that govern everything from supervision to staking down the inflatables are followed. He tells ABC2, “It's about trying to ensure the public's safety as best we can and in order to do that we want to be out there, eyes on, making sure people are complying."
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The end result, according to DLLR, is fewer accidents. Gavel says there have been only two reported in the last five years, with minor injuries. But that's only reported injuries on the bounce houses the state tracks. The trouble, experts say, is no one's watching hundreds of others used legally in Maryland and in other states. Inflatables used for private events and parties are not on their radar. Gavel says, "That's the defining line in Maryland, public versus private."
That line means bounce houses rented out for birthday parties and similar events get no regulation, no inspection and no monitoring, even though they're used in the same way by the same kids.
Instead, it’s up to the owner to make sure they're safe.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission agrees about the need for parental involvement. Although the agency sends a member to the ASTM F-24 committee meetings, they've taken no official stance on guidelines for inflatables. Scott Wolfson, Communications Director for the CPSC, sent us this statement on the issue, “Whether it is at a local fair or a backyard birthday party, CPSC wants children to stay safe in and around inflatable jumpers. They can be fun for kids, but if not anchored properly and not functioning properly, then incidents and injuries can occur. CPSC recommends that young children not be placed inside of a bounce house with older, bigger children. Consumers should report to us on SaferProducts.gov, if there is an incident with a inflatable moonwalk that had the potential to hurt a child or resulted in a child getting hurt.”